It was February of 2020 and international blues rock power trio The Cards, featuring Saxon’s Paul Quinn, were gearing up to embark on their first tour across Europe as a band. While Paul and his bandmates, Doro/U.D.O. veteran Harrison Young and Vandenberg’s Koen Herfst, are no strangers to the road, the excitement in the air was palpable. This was to be their grand debut, following up on the success of their widely acclaimed debut album, but as we all know in retrospect, the world had other plans as a global pandemic was following right behind them.
Flash forward to the twilight of 2020, when nearly every working musician in the world has been silenced for over nine months as the virus known as Covid-19 continues to ravage the land. It may have taken a while, but The Cards are finally ready to speak on the subject via their new single “The Gamble” which will be released worldwide via Spaceage Productions on 18 December.
For Quinn (or “The King” as he’s known to Cards fans), the excitement was paired with a natural bit of anxiety in downsizing his 45 years on tour with buses, techs, and catered meals into a van with two guitars, a bare bones crew, and intermittent gas station food stops. “The trepidation l felt was not just for buses, hotels and food, but also a recently twisted knee and other age related health concerns. Sitting for long periods makes things worse,” says Quinn, now 68.
For Young and Herfst (or “The Jack” and “The Joker” as they’re known in Cards-lore) this was a unique opportunity to tour with their resident guitar hero in a way they knew he had only done with his “main squeeze” Saxon decades earlier. “Paul is a walking time capsule,” says bassist/singer Harrison Young. “The stories that come out of him whenever we’re playing or hanging are just bizarre. Whether he’s recounting the time a young Christopher Guest interviewed him in order to make a rock mockumentary which would later become ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ or his gigs with Saxon on the sunset strip where bands like Metallica used to open for him, it’s an honor to step into that world and to become a part of his legendary story. We were really excited to stuff ourselves into a van with Paul.”
“We all are used to touring in all sorts of ways, whether it’s private planes and soccer stadiums, nightliners and bigger club shows, and of course ‘van life,’” says Herfst. “For me the latter has been a while ago and I must admit that it was quite a gamble not knowing exactly what to expect because as a band we were just going out for the first time ever across Europe. No big production or epic stages, just cool clubs and sometimes even small cafe’s, with just the pure basics of rock & roll. That’s what I really liked about it, we just went out there without expectations and it was beautiful to see people who never saw us live before go crazy and rock with us. Then in the middle of it came the outbreak in the Milan area, the day we had a show there! There were already lots of people staying home who already had a ticket so we knew it was something serious. Then touring through Italy and seeing the numbers double and double and family advising us to get back home; that was such a weird experience. Almost like ‘ok let’s see how many shows are left, but it might as well be over tomorrow’. And eventually we had to say ‘this is getting too crazy, let’s get out of here ASAP.’”
The subject matter of the new single doesn’t only relate to the Covid era. The boys in the band believe that their lives as musicians are filled with constant gambles and assessments large and small. “Making and sending music out into the world is always a gamble,” says Young. “Our experience this year was just compounded by the fact that as we were in the process of sharing our music, the world began falling apart around us.”
The King, Jack, and Joker hung on until the bitter end, playing their last show of the tour in Vienna, Austria on 12 March, just a few days before a continent-wide lockdown began. They raced home just in time to quarantine. This feeling was perfectly captured by Dutch artist Sophia Den Breems, who brought the single’s cover artwork to life.
In conclusion, The King has this to say of his band mates and the experience as a whole: “The audiences and sheer fire of the Jack & Joker were worth the discomfort, as you can hear on the ‘b-side’ of our new single, and the memory of working on and previewing ‘The Gamble’ in hotels and shows will stay with me forever as a high point.”
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